You may be wondering what social enterprises are and here at SEED, we want to help you out. A social enterprise is a financially sustainable business that, instead of using profits for financial gain, exists to benefit the wider community. Social enterprises sell goods or services and reinvest the profits into different causes ranging from social and cultural issues, to environmental ones. Basically, they’re successful businesses that create incredible change. At its core, a social enterprise seeks to give consumers greater purchasing power because you can continue to enjoy your morning coffee or indulge your stationery obsession, all the while knowing that you’re being a total superhero and supporting vital community issues.
That sounds good, but how does a social enterprise differ from a charity? Another great question. Whilst charities collect donations to support their causes, social enterprises funnel their profits into creating social change. This is a key difference between the two because although charities often do a great job at supporting people and communities in need, the mission of social enterprises is to be self-sustaining in their ability to create social change that impacts the mechanisms behind these problems.
Take thankyou., the social enterprise that makes drinking water taste good. This bottled water brand sits in competition with the billion-dollar bottled water industry, but uses profits to support charities that are already operating in impoverished countries across Africa and Asia. As of February 2017, thankyou. has changed the lives of over 540 000 people through water, sanitation and hygiene projects and continues its incredible progress with customers able to track the impact of their purchase on people’s lives on the other side of the world.
Closer to home, we can see the impact social enterprises are having in Melbourne by supporting the social change of systemic problems. STREAT is a series of inner Melbourne cafés which serve coffee with a side of social improvement, through providing hope and employment to disadvantaged and homeless youth. Each meal and drink is prepared by young people, who are given the opportunity to learn transferable hospitality and life skills, giving them the chance to transform their lives.
Social enterprises give us power because they give us the opportunity to create change with our dollar and let us be the decision makers. It is their mission to be change makers, awareness creators and consumer facilitators that empower community improvement. We may only be consumers, but our choices are powerful. Through greater education and exposure, we can create change by supporting social enterprises.